Penn State defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has emerged as the focus of the search for Duke's next football coach, sources told ESPN on Thursday.

Diaz has been the top target for an extended period, and a deal is expected to be finalized in the next 24 hours. Duke conducted finalist interviews in Las Vegas this week.

Diaz is coming off a season in which he led the nation's top statistical defense, as the Nittany Lions held opponents to 223.2 yards per game -- the best single-season defensive performance in the sport since Alabama in 2011.

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He also brings head-coaching experience in the ACC, as he led Miami to three bowl-eligible seasons during his time there from 2019 to 2021.

Diaz, whose 2020 team at Miami was ranked as high as No. 7 in the country, was fired after three seasons with a 21-15 record. Miami is 12-12 since his departure.

He would take over a Duke program that got an energy jolt during Mike Elko's two seasons as coach. Elko went 9-4 in 2022 and led the Blue Devils to the school's highest national ranking, No. 16, this year. He left last month for the head-coaching job at Texas A&M.

Diaz would need to work quickly to retool Duke's roster, which was laden with veterans -- the team is expected to lose well over half of its starters to graduation. Star quarterback Riley Leonard is in the NCAA transfer portal and took a visit to Notre Dame this week.

Diaz brings extensive experience in the ACC. In addition to his time at Miami as head coach and defensive coordinator, he has also had stops at Florida State as a graduate assistant and at NC State in various roles for six seasons early in his career.

After his departure from Miami, Diaz made quick work of building Penn State into a defensive power. The Nittany Lions have held opponents to 24 or less points in 17 straight games -- the nation's longest active streak.

Diaz was a semifinalist for the Broyles Award, given to the nation's top assistant, in his first season at Penn State. He'll bring extensive recruiting connections from his various other stops -- Middle Tennessee, Mississippi State, Texas, Louisiana Tech -- and a high-energy approach to recruiting.

Duke plays Troy in the Birmingham Bowl on Dec. 23.